David Heinemeier Hansson

February 16, 2023

My all-time dream car

Whether you're a car lover or not, there's no denying the disarming enthusiasm of Doug DeMuro. He's an anti-influencer in a car world dominated by slick, status-conscious performers on YouTube. A reminder that being into cars doesn't have to be about showing off, and that you can enjoy the design, engineering, and driving experience of these wonderful machines entirely on their own merits.

Doug's over-the-top yet authentic enthusiasm is backed up by a real knack for dissecting the QUIRKS & FEATURES of cars under his review. He brings you along for a journey of incredulity every time he marvels at the design of a vanity mirror, door latch, or design insignia placed in an odd location. He helps you develop an eye and an articulation of why it is that being into cars is such fun. The variety, the origin stereotypes, the often curious trade-offs that has to be made when putting 5,000+ parts together for a modern car.

I've enjoyed Doug's show for years, but it was a video he posted about his All-Time Dream Car that really inspired me. Doug's favorite car is the Porsche Carrera GT. It's the genesis of his entire career in automotive journalism, and he's been pining for that grail car since 2005. Now, thanks to his incredible YouTube success, which he has parlayed into a car auction website that recently received a large investment, he's been able to buy his own Carrera GT. And I've probably never been more pleased by proxy of someone else's fulfilment of their car dream than when I was watching that celebration video.

Because it reminded me of all the reasons that I'm into cars. The child-like awe I feel every time I see a cool car coming in the opposite direction. There's just this deep sense of wonder that's triggered by the shapes and sounds of great MACCHINA (the Italian word for car, which you should always imagine in your head spoken with the intensity of an excited Italian!).

I refuse to give up that affection, despite all the many ways it's possible to PROBLEMATIZE cars today. We can argue the virtues of public transit, bikes, or pollution-free inner cities, and still let out a shriek of COUNTACH! when a bright yellow Lamborghini passes us by. Life is full of contradiction, and the heart beats for passion before reason. No apologies needed.

Which finally brings me to the story of MY ALL-TIME DREAM CAR: The Pagani Zonda.

I first saw the Zonda on Top Gear in 2004, just a few years after it had premiered at the Geneva Autoshow. Richard Hammond's gushing review of the car might not have been in the style of Doug DeMuro, but it had that same infectious enthusiasm.

I remember thinking at the time: If I ever truly make it, this will be my car. Note, this was the same year Basecamp and Ruby on Rails came into the world. From a small apartment in Copenhagen – before I even had a driver's license! – and with no fortune to my name. Which is exactly the kind of impossible dream that bedroom posters of cool cars have permitted since the supercar was invented by Ferruccio Lamborghini with the Miura.

Fast forward six years to 2010. Jason and I had made some real money selling software (and a small stake in the company to Jeff Bezos!), and I went on a three-week trip with my wife-to-be around Europe in a white Lamborghini.

We started in the UK, and ended up covering some 6,000 kilometers on that trip. Truly an epic journey through the Alps, on the Autobahn (first time I ever hit 200mph on public road!), and to the magical towns of Modena and Sant'Agata in Italy.


The itinerary had included a visit to the Lamborghini factory from the start. There we had the honor of meeting and lunching with the legendary Lamborghini test driver, Valentino Balboni, who, when we met him in 2010 just before his retirement, had been working for the company since 1968! He had just been immortalized with his own special edition of the Gallardo, the LP 550-2 Valentino Balboni. The first rear-wheel driven Lamborghini of the modern era. This is us posing with him in front of that car:


Now this is where things could so easily have gone a different way, and I would have missed out on owning my all-time dream car forever. Because after visiting the Lamborghini factory, and doing a very basic tourist tour at Pagani, we were due to leave the Modena/Sant'Agata area, and continue on our road trip. I actually don't remember exactly how this came up, but I happened to speak with an Italian friend from Chicago, Gabe, who happened to be good friends with Horacio Pagani, and who was aghast that we had gone to the factory as mere tourists, and not even met Horacio himself. So he had it arranged that we would go back to Pagani the very next day, so we could get a proper tour, and meet Horacio.

We again marveled at the Zondas sitting in the reception. We saw the autoclave that had started the Pagani business as a maker of carbon fiber in the 1990s, after he left Lamborghini because they wouldn't pursue these composite materials that Horacio believed would be the future of the supercar world (and how right he was!). We even got test drives in an orange Zonda F by their fearless test driver, Davide Testi, who thought nothing of drifting the car at full chat about the narrow roads around the factory. And afterwards, by Horacio himself in a silver car. By lunch, it was already the most epic day of a most epic trip, but by dinner, it would have turned into one of the most epic days of my entire life.



See, after all the tours, all the sights, all the sounds, we somehow let it be known that it was indeed my all-time car dream to own a Zonda, but that I had heard they were all sold. Which is when Alberto, the soft-spoken sales manager for Pagani, subtly suggested that maybe, just maybe, it would be possible for us to commission our very own custom Zonda. Oh, and in fact, they had a project that had already reached the finished tub state of production, but where the customer had bailed, and perhaps we could take this over, and design our own Zonda? And we could call it The Pagani Zonda HH.


Before the day was over, we had signed the paperwork to commission a one million-euro hypercar with Horacio Pagani himself. Oh, and attended a special gala night celebrating a new book about Pagani that had just come out that same day. From a moment that shouldn't even have been, which started out as a mere tourist visit, to an insane purchase of an insane car.

The design collaboration continued over the next couple of months. Horacio and his team sent over paint samples, renderings, and after a few back'n'forths, we had our design:



Because we had taken over a project that was already well-advanced, the car got completed incredibly quickly. We signed in July, and by November it was time to take delivery. Unfortunately (or fortunately, as it would turn out), the weather had turned in Italy by then, and Pagani suggested we take delivery of the car in Marbella instead. They had a dealership there. So we flew to Spain.

And what followed was another string of magical days with Horacio Pagani, Alberto, and the owner of the Spanish Pagani dealership Mario. This was the trip where we fell in love with Marbella, got introduced to the incredible track that is Ascari, and had Horacio himself fill up our car with gas!



This is all now over twelve years ago. Not only do we still own the Pagani Zonda HH, but it is still my favorite car of all-time. The grail. The one we'll never sell. The one that fills me with child-like glee and awe whenever we take off the cover, even if it's just to stare at it.


And in celebration of impossible dreams that occasionally do come true, I'm getting back on Instagram to share some of those bedroom poster pictures of the Zonda, and other street and race cars I've been so fortunate to own or drive.

I quit Instagram (for the second time!) a couple of years ago, and I don't intend to use it like I did then, but also, I've grown tired of how this modern quest to problematize everything seems to expand endlessly. Yes, Instagram can be a pit of death by comparison, but it can also just be an app to look at cool cars.

Can we just enjoy some of those second best things in life that the world has to offer? Without being a bore about every which way it's inevitably a symptom of late-stage capitalism or whatever? Be it by ownership or by proxy. Drink it in with moderation, sure, but also get out of that fun-killing daze where participation in every hobby is sucked dry by excessive and sanctimonious self-critique. I've come to consider that even more ostentatious than a bright yellow Lamborghini these days.

So thank you, Doug DeMuro, for reminding me what being into cars in public can also be. I salute you with instagram.com/dhhdrives, and pictures of my own all-time dream car. May you see as many joyous miles in your Carrera GT, as I've done in my Pagani Zonda HH!

Oh, and like Doug, Jamie and I loved the Zonda so much we even featured it in our wedding. Which was held at Ascari. All because that one epic day went the way it did and not another.


About David Heinemeier Hansson

Made Basecamp and HEY for the underdogs as co-owner and CTO of 37signals. Created Ruby on Rails. Wrote REWORK, It Doesn't Have to Be Crazy at Work, and REMOTE. Won at Le Mans as a racing driver. Fought the big tech monopolies as an antitrust advocate. Invested in Danish startups.